More for hockey players, less for watchers – a rant:

Hindsight is 20/20. Unfortunately, having good vision of the immediate past is effectively worthless for a hockey player. No two shifts are the same, and your job is to be great in the moment, not analyze what happened after and know what you should have done (I should’ve shot that!). There are bloggers who make a living off that. (He should’ve shot that!)

I can’t remember a time where I made an error on a play that could have resulted in a goal for my team, I was told by a teammate to do something else the next time, the same situation came up a few shifts later, and we scored. Hockey is fun because each shift is almost always different. “The next time we have a 2-on-1 on that d-man” probably isn’t gonna happen anytime soon.

So that brings me to my point: shut the truck up on the bench, especially in rec hockey.

I don’t actually mean “shut up” – we can talk about what happened last shift, or what we want to do next shift, there’s just nothing worse than sitting beside a guy who wants to tell you when he was open and what should happen during particular plays. Emotions are high, and it inspires more venom than it does productivity.

I watched Oil Change the other day on the NHL Network, and was intrigued by an annoyed Taylor Hall listening to Shawn Horcoff explain that “when you do that, I’m open in the slot.” …I got this, Shawn, thanks.

There are in-game things worthy of discussing – D-man X appears to be off his game, let’s take it at him. The ref seems to have put his whistle away, let’s get physical. But never…okay, almost never, is there a thing you can repeatedly do that elicits the same reaction from a hockey team. Doling out advice - most specifically stuff like ”I’m open in the slot” – is nothing but negative.

I’m a golfer. I played high school basketball. I played baseball until college. I’m just a jock, overall, and I feel comfortable saying this – no sport leaves you thinking “I should’ve” or “We should’ve” or “He should’ve” more than hockey. If you want, you can talk about every shift for longer than it took in real time, and you can apologize for a half-dozen things you should’ve done differently or could’ve done better.

And, for many years, I was that guy. “Sorry about that pass, could’ve been flatter.” “Yeah, sorry about that, I thought he was going to reverse it.” “Sorry man, I gotta bury that.” …Until eventually an older player – like, a decade older – told me to STFU on the bench. Apologies, pass requests, whatever – it’s mostly wasted energy. Your teammates know when they missed you, or when you missed them. Nobody was trying to do it on purpose.

Those comments aren’t positive, they’re negative. It’s annoying, and it detracts from the things you did well during the shift before.

So on the bench with your linemates, heed the lesson I learned in the AHL: just shut up. Drink your water or gatorade, clean your visor, watch the game, and shut up.

Telling your linemates when and where you were open gets you nowhere.